Sharp-eyed viewers of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” may have noticed a head-scratcher on the Tuesday (March 22) episode, as attention turned to the jury that was sequestered for 266 days in the so-called “Trial of the Century.” Art and real-life blurred together briefly, as the actress who portrayed madam foreman Amanda Cooley was Susan Beaubian — the same person who played O.J. Simpson’s wife in the 1988 film “The Naked Gun.”
Was it intentional? Was it a fluke? Either way, such casting coincidences happen every now and then in Hollywood, a town that casts thousands of actors every year — each one with a real-life story that can occasionally intersect in strange, fascinating ways. Read on for a few examples of Hollywood’s most bizarre casting coincidences, and prepare to have your mind blown.
A Killer Coincidence
Five years after the murder of John Lennon, his widow Yoko Ono set out to make “John and Yoko: A Love Story,” a television drama that would tell the tale of the legendary rock couple. Actors were cast as not only John and Yoko, but also Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. When it came time to cast Lennon’s killer, the leading candidate was an actor named Mark Lindsay, who had impressed the TV movie’s producers. Then, things got weird.
A news outlet in Britain discovered that “Mark Lindsay” was a stage name, and the real name of the actor in line to play Mark David Chapman was … Mark Chapman. Yoko Ono, famously eccentric, reportedly saw the coincidence as “bad karma” and quietly paid off the actor so they could give the role to someone else. Maybe she was right: “John and Yoko: A Love Story” premiered on NBC in 1985 with a critical and ratings thud.
Believe it or not, the story gets even stranger. In 2007’s “Chapter 27” starring future Oscar-winner Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman, John Lennon is glimpsed through blurry lenses and quick glances. The actor who portrayed the ill-fated rock star? Mark Lindsay.
If I Were John Carpenter
He may be better remembered for his music, but Elvis Presley made more than two dozen films during his career — typically playing a singing cowboy, a singing soldier or a singing auto mechanic. His final role may have been his least memorable — but in the realm of casting coincidences, it’s his most noteworthy.
In 1969’s “Change of Habit,” The King played a doctor who befriends a nun (Mary Tyler Moore) to help him clean up the ghetto. The name of his character? John Carpenter.
As any good movie buff knows, shortly after Elvis’ death eight years later, Kurt Russell starred in a well-received TV movie called “Elvis.” The director of that film was the young man who would create the “Halloween” franchise and go on to direct such classics as “They Live.” His name? John Carpenter.
Ask any Quentin Tarantino fan and they’ll tell you that one of his best films is the criminally underrated criminal flick “Jackie Brown.” But you may be surprised to learn the name of the person who cast Pam Grier in her Golden Globe-nominated performance.
Tarantino’s 1997 film starred Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton, and was assembled by a veteran casting director who had overseen such films as “Boyz n the Hood” and “Billy Madison.” Her name? Jaki Brown.
A Potter Puzzler
In 2012, former “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe starred in the horror flick “The Woman in Black,” based on a beloved 1983 novel by Susan Hill. But it actually wasn’t the first time the book had been made into a movie.
In 1989, a made-for-TV version was filmed with Radcliffe’s character played by a different actor (which makes sense, because Radcliffe was being born that year). The role was played by Adrian Rawlins … who would later appear in the Harry Potter movies as Radcliffe’s father.
Based on a True Story
In 1974, future Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins was cast to star in “The Girl from Petrovka,” a drama based on the novel of the same name by author George Feifer.
As Feifer would later explain, Hopkins found himself annoyed in the weeks after taking the role because as hard as he tried, he could not find a copy of the book to assist with his research. Then, in a mind-blowing coincidence, Hopkins just happened to be walking through a park in London when he discovered an abandoned novel sitting on a park bench. Picking it up, Hopkins realized it was “The Girl From Petrovka,” and thankful for his good fortune, he kept it.
But what came next is twice as amazing: Two years later, Hopkins met Feifer during the filming of the movie. As the two got to know each other on set, Feifer mentioned that he had once personally annotated a copy of “Petrovka,” but was saddened because he had loaned it to a friend who then lost it. Want to take a wild guess whose copy Hopkins had?